Company’s move from Kettering may signal new business model for cities seeking, keeping jobs

Synchrony Financial’s decision this week to vacate its Kettering offices will cost the city more than $2 million in annual tax revenue.

As part of the decision, all of the company’s nearly 1,900 employees ― and more than $100 million annual payroll ― will move out of the Kettering Business Park starting in 2021. As a result, Synchrony Financial will not have a brick and mortar location in the area, as all employees will work from home permanently, officials said.

Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

The move may be a wake-up call for municipalities in the region as they adapt to a new norm created by the COVID-19 pandemic while also generating tax revenue.

“We have built an infrastructure that is based upon having employers and employees at the job site,” Kettering City Manager Mark Schwieterman said Wednesday.

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“And moving forward we will certainly need to continue to understand what it is the company is looking for because it is a different offering of services if there’s not a footprint. And we’ll just have to simply work with companies in that regard,” he added.

Schwieterman’s assessment is “pretty right on,” Miamisburg City Manager Keith Johnson said.

“Obviously, when you’re dealing with companies that don’t rely on brick and mortar for their location requirement, that’s certainly something that we’re going to have to weigh in” in seeking to attract or keep businesses, Johnson said.

Johnson said Miamisburg doesn’t have an employer of significant size with the ability to work entirely remotely.

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But “any type of business that moves in, you’re weighing out your ability to help them,” he said. “It may be some of these (incentive) agreements that we’re putting together have some….provisions” to safeguard a partnership between a community and a business.

As communities seek to attract or keep jobs, Huber Heights City Manager Rob Schommer said, “Decisions like this from companies will have to be considered on a case-by-case basis, and would be factored in when discussing the needs of the business for physical plant and operations.”

“Understanding the needs of the business will define any recruitment or retention strategies,” he added.

Neither Johnson, Schommer nor Schwieterman said they had communications with any other employers in their communities about plans similar to Synchrony’s.

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But Schwieterman speculated that, “certainly there are other companies in similar situations that could be making the same decisions or analyzing this decision.”

The move by Synchrony, Kettering’s fourth largest employer, is part of a new strategy the company, which employs 17,000 people globally, announced Tuesday, said Lisa Lanspery, senior vice president of public relations.

The strategy is “part of a broader effort to help drive efficiency, flexibility and innovation in a new way of working strategy. And we believe this is going to change how we work and transform our company and culture,” Lanspery said.

Synchrony is a consumer financial services company working with several industries, including retail, health, auto, travel and home, according to its website.

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Ohio is home to many of the company’s jobs, and Kettering is one of the largest locations, Lanspery said.

The plan by Synchrony ― which indicated its Kettering operations account for an annual payroll of $120 million ― will mean a “significant decline in our tax revenue,” Schwieterman said.

Kettering’s income tax rate is 2.25%, which translates to about $2.7 million in annual tax revenues for the city.

After Synchrony’s lease expires on Dec. 31, its workers will pay withholding taxes in the community in which they live, Schwieterman said.

Staff Writers Jordan Laird and Eric Schwartzberg contributed to this report.

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